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Regional Banking HR Leaders Meet in Singapore

Hosted by: Bank of America Merrill Lynch

The Chapman Consulting Group and Bank of America Merrill Lynch co-hosted the latest Quarter 1 Banking HR Leaders forum today. The session was a lively and topical discussion with a great group of HR Leaders from the Banking community. Attendees included HR Leaders from Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC, BlackRock, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Nomura, ANZ, Credit Suisse, Julius Baer, PayPal and American Express. Matt Beath, Managing Director of BeathChapman, also joined the group to add his insight on recruitment trends outside the HR field.

General observations on the current HR market in Quarter 1 were shared with the group by Matthew Chapman. He highlighted the prominence of consolidation in the early part of the year and a marked drop in activity as compared to Quarters 1 in 2009 and 2010. The discussion then moved on to the current outlook and mood within the HR teams across the banking market and the latest organisational changes now we are halfway through Quarter 1. It was generally agreed that the pressure on HR to do ‘more with less’ has not been this strong for a long time. Removing layers at the regional level and shifting reporting lines directly from country to global has been one way to deconstruct the HR structure. Other organisations were ‘double hatting’ roles to better align HR with the business.

Merging functions to find cost savings was a common theme for many HR Leaders. Synergy across specialist areas was discussed as a practical way to make this happen, e.g. between specialisations such as recruitment, campus hiring, training and Talent Management. ‘Rightsizing’ the HR function was also discussed. Markets where the business has not grown as expected, or where tough decisions are being made on future investment, have had HR team structures come under pressure. However HR workforce cuts have not been made where HR team members can show their adaptability in focusing on where they can still add value.

Singapore’s continuing competitiveness as a regional hub was discussed. Some corporations were pinpointing Singapore more than they had in previous years for Regional and Global attention. With this there was a feeling that talent shortages in certain key areas were continuing, but attracting inter-Asia or inter-regional talent moves to Singapore was still much easier in Singapore versus other locations in Asia.

A number of organisations with senior leadership changes (at the CHRO or CEO level) had interesting insights on the transformation they were embarking on irrespective of the economic climate. These included moving process and HR service levels to one standard approach across sub groups of the bank. It also included embarking on new programmes around flexible working (working from home, hot-desking or part time work) which were exciting, but still taking time to be understood and adopted in Asia.

Developing HR capability in the region was a hot topic for the group, with some key takeaways:

  1. Providing a ‘career path’ was vital, and HR Leaders agreed that sometimes this was challenging with country-focused talent. Short-term assignments in other countries and improving in-country resourcing for development roles was highlighted.
  2. Mobility was considered a must have for top talent. One organisation had adopted a unique ‘contract’ for their future leaders; once they sign up to be in the high potential programme they are also agreeing to be fully flexible on future location.
  3. Broadening specialists into HR roles was discussed. The group agreed that it gave more career opportunity and increased the pool of internal talent for HR Leaders to choose from. For example a recruiter spending 80% of their time on their core role and 20% business partnering a small employee group would help develop their stakeholder management plus understanding of the business and HR.
  4. Flexible working was considered a great way to retain and attract talent. However HR Leaders who had implemented work from home or similar initiatives were quick to emphasis the need for senior stakeholder buy-in to make this work. It was agreed that when successful it helped engagement and lowered office costs.


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Key Contributors:

Matthew Chapman
Matthew Chapman


Global Management
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Matthew Chapman
Global Management

Matthew Chapman


Matthew (Matt) Chapman is the Founder of ChapmanCG.

He has also created the Thrive HR Exchange, a global community platform for people leaders and HR professionals to find and exchange inspiration, ideas and insights. Discover some of his interviews with HR leaders here.

Matt has a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Business Law from the University of New South Wales, Australia. He is a Singapore Citizen and divides his time between Asia Pacific, the Americas and EMEA.

Matt is a wellness, self-improvement and fitness addict. He has completed six desert, 250km ultra-marathons in Chile, China, Egypt, Antarctica, Namibia and Madagascar.

EA Registration Number: R1111550 Licence Number: 08S3543